“What We Got Here is Failure to Communicate”~


Elephant Seals are obviously not the only species with this problem!

This sub-adult male seems a bit sheepish about his not yet mature mating attempts.
He looks at me almost as if he’s apologetic!
He’s just practising now, learning how to deal with all the rejection.

Elephant Seal mating is disturbingly violent. It is a hard life being an elephant seal.
Looking into the female’s eyes it is impossible not to feel sorry for her and her continual harassment.

For now at least, the adolescent males just look beached and confused!
Cheers to you the Piedras Blancas elephant seals~

Title quote: “Cool Hand Luke.”

221 thoughts on ““What We Got Here is Failure to Communicate”~

    1. Yes, this is exactly how I felt! These males probably won’t mate this year. But the dominant males will and they will do so violently and without consent. Babies on the beach are sometimes killed in the melee. I have not been here when mating is in full force and I don’t want to be.

  1. These are adorable photos – very moving and you’ve captured their very essence I feel. Can you really get so close to the seals? That must be an amazing experience! ๐Ÿ˜€ Wishing you a great weekend, Cindy. ๐Ÿ˜ƒ

    1. Thank you for such a lovely comment Annika & I am so pleased you are sensitive to the elephant seal’s essence. One thing I have learned photographing the faces of wild animals is they are emotional and intelligent creatures, who are as curious about me as I am about them! They are like us!

  2. Goodness, oh how I love those elephant seals, they ALWAYS make me smile. They’re like a cartoon come to life! Have yourselves a wonderful weekend Cindy.๐Ÿ˜ƒ

  3. I think as human adults we can all relate to that too, sometimes; lack of communication, misunderstanding, etc. We ask things like, “Can you hear me now?”, “Are you even listening?” etc. I find it very interesting the things we have in common with the mammal species. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I definitely find the commonalities interesting too! I was taught about the perils of anthropomorphizing animals, or ascribing them human characteristics. Having photographed so many wild animals, I now realize how misleading this concept is. Animals are complex, intelligent and emotional creatures, with many similarities to us.

    1. I noticed some females on more distant beaches, not up with the main colony. I wonder if they can remain here unmolested there and if so, these are smart females. I feel sorry for them too and did not hang around to watch the mating when it went into full swing.

  4. They are adorable and interesting – communication is essential to all living creatures. I guess maybe humans are the least equipped creatures in this case…

    1. Exactly! I was going to focus the post on this fact, but decided to keep it lighter. Humans have a long way to go to catch up with wild animals. After all wild animals kill to survive…..

    1. Yes it seems non-sensical. Only dominant males are allowed to mate and they have large harems whom they prohibit from mating with other males. This ensures that strong genes get passed to the greatest number of females. However, it also limits genetic diversity in the gene pool which can be species limiting, so yes, it is confusing. Interestingly, females actually select the harems and the male to join. Although I noticed some females alone on distant beaches. Maybe they are the smartest ones!

        1. Nope, going nowhere, just here at The Holler, Home Sweet Home. As Dorothy told us there is no place like home, right? Unless of course you never leave it, which would, for me, make it a prison. I love being here. Just not always. You are a sweetheart Rhonda and I am lucky to know you. <3

          1. I’m with you Cindy– love being home, “but not always.” Just back from a week in San Francsico, then a week in Madison WI. Now home feels pretty good! Just watched Planet Earth this evening–(have you seen it?) made me think of your photos… take care. xo

            1. My aunt and uncle went to university in Madison. I bet it was cold there and wet in San Fran, but warmer in Cali! I am watching Planet Earth and amazed as always. We are re-watching the originals again too!

              1. Hi Cindy– you’re so right– wet & chilly in SF– and we love Madison–state capitol and college town, so pretty and so much going on. — Love your posts–Checking in every week!! xo

  5. Wow, he really looks like he’s trying to get friendly with her in the top image, like he’s saying, “Hey… How YOU doin?”

    It’s interesting that the power dynamic is so different from one species to another. For example, among the Cassowaries in Australia, the males are scared of the females. There’s a documentary on Youtube showing a male (whose duty is to sit on the eggs and care for the young alone) who reluctantly abandons his young-ish chicks to fend for themselves because an adult female is demanding his special attention and would harm the chicks. Poor things. They seemed happy together (the male and the chicks).

    1. These different patterns of behavior are confusing aren’t they and frankly, despite all the Darwinian explanations, lots of it doesn’t make much sense. Elephant Seals would be better off with more males mating and less dominance in the gene pool with only one male and 100 or so partners. Everyone would be happier too. I have to restrain myself thinking like a psychotherapist who treated abusive males for a few decades when I visit these guys. I have to use self talk, “They are elephant seals Cindy. They can’t go to group!”
      ๐Ÿ˜‰ ๐Ÿ˜‰

  6. Failure to communicate aside, this is what I call Sealrious and Sealous photography. Great shots, my friend. โ™ก(ห˜แต‹ ห˜ )โˆฟ ๏ธต แƒฆัฮผั‚ั‘แƒฆ

  7. Awww beautiful seals! I love that pic of the females eyes that you captured! She looks like she’s saying, leave me alone and let me enjoy the sunshine! Hugz from Lisa and Bear

  8. Wonderful photos. They really are most characterful creatures. I remember in a nature show on television all about elephant seals, that the mating season did involve some pretty violent encounters between competing males, and they made some impressive noises when they were cross.

    1. The males also rape females and squish babies in the violent melee, and you are right, the males do fight regularly but most intensely for control of the beach before the females arrive. The females pick the harem and male they want to join. I saw solitary females on empty beaches. These must have been the smart, feminist seals! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    1. It is an odd life, they spend the bulk of their lives alone in the deep ocean, and meet up, and mash up for a couple of months to breed, fight, and raise their young. I would want to find some empty atoll and live there instead! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  9. Great quote by Cool Hand Luke, Cindy, and the classic story of love spurned. I suppose its comforting in a way to know that we share this situation with the animal kingdom!! Enjoy your travels.

  10. Hahahaha! Your commentary is awesome, as are the photos! I’ve often thought that being a female elephant seal must be one of the worst things to be. Poor things. Thanks for making me laugh, Cindy! <3

  11. Vibha Ravi

    Great pics as usual Cindy. Love the way you put them in perspective with your text. Also, thanks for passing by my blog.

        1. The body language sensitivity is something I learned from 30 years of being a psychotherapist. I didn’t expect the same skill set to be so entirely useful in evaluating how and when to approach wild animals. It’s really remarkable. Maybe more psychotherapists should start taking photos of wild animals and hanging around them!

          1. Really, and it makes sense that if you are instinctual to human body language it could work with animals too. But I think you have a gift in that department. ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Wow what an amazing post Cindy – dont know how I missed it. He does look apologetic and she quite fed up – you captured their frustrations and emotions perfectly!

    1. They are pretty obvious! It surprises me how much emotion wild animals express through their body language. I wasn’t expecting it. They certainly have a range of feelings.

      1. Yes, clearly they do – take dogs for instance, they get so attached to their owners that they stop eating in their absence…it’s we who are unable to understand their language and emotions

  13. Bonjour CINDY

    Viens je t’emmรจne dans un monde de rรชves



    Viens avec moi au pays de l’amitiรฉ

    Ou seul ce petit monde est loi

    Un monde de paix

    Il se cache au fond de ton cล“ur

    Dans un monde de merveilles

    Qui brille la nuit ร  l’orรฉe du ciel

    Tu y trouveras des perles rares

    Celle ou nous avons รฉtรฉ ami ou amie pour la premiรจre fois

    Quelle belle histoire entre nous

    C’est ainsi que le verbe aimer existe

    Je t’รฉcris ces quelques mots avec tendresse

    Je te les offre du fond du cล“ur

    Je te souhaite soit une belle soirรฉe soit une belle journรฉe

    Bisous Bernard


  14. “A failure to communicate …” can describe so many things today, lol. Who knew you can also apply it to elephant seals. ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. You have such a gentle, caring and generous spirit to check them out as well as sharing the views with those of us who may not be able to see these incredible creatures, Cindy.

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